Over the last decade, the United States has seen a significant shift in demographics. In Iowa, this shift has been characterized by an older, white population and a younger Latino population. The median age for the white population in Iowa has become 38.0, while the median age for Latinos is 22.3.  It is becoming increasingly important to prepare Latinos to represent the community in ways that make lasting, substantive change. Currently, fewer than 20 Latinos hold an elected position out of 7,000 elected offices across the state. And, this only reflects one area where Latino leadership is lacking. Enter: the Latina Leadership Initiative of Greater Des Moines.

The Latina Leadership Initiative of Greater Des Moines (LLI) is the only leadership development program in Iowa that fills a gap in the lack of culturally appropriate leadership training for promising Latina women. Through participating in LLI, these women receive the encouragement necessary to realize their potential.

The LLI class of 2014 and 2015 produced two young women, Rocio Hermosillo ‘14 (Des Moines), and Juanita Zavala ‘15 (Ottumwa) that ran for School Board in their respective districts.


Latina Influence

Latina women have become the “prominent contributors to the educational, economic, and cultural wellbeing of their ethnicity and [North] American society.” (Latina Power Shift, 2). It is the goal of the Latina Leadership Initiative that Iowa have more young, powerful and educated Latinas serving on board of directors, commissions and other leadership capacities.

As a member of the LLI Class of 2016, I have first-hand experience of how mentorship can make a difference in professional and personal development. One of the most exciting aspects of the program is the Annual Board Recruitment session where dozens of organizations throughout the state of Iowa attend in February to recruit potential board members from the LLI program. In addition to providing leadership opportunities for the participants, LLI presents a unique curriculum that infuses traditional leadership development training with three unique areas of focus: gender, culture and local impact. Overall, the curriculum addresses:



•teamwork and community building

•culture and identity


•social changes


•public speaking

•career development and advancement

This, along with the help of the program’s mentors, creates an all-encompassing experience that allows participants to see exactly how each topic affects them, and how their talents can, in turn, affect change in those areas. This approach promotes heightened awareness of social responsibility and attention to the needs of the local Latino community.

LLI is based on the principle that development of young Latina leaders enhances the entire community.

Who is eligible?

Women who identify as Latinas, ages 20 to 34 years old who have completed high school (or equivalent), and are in the beginning stages of their careers will be selected to participate in LLI.

The women will undergo a competitive selection process and only those who are committed to fulfilling all the requirements will be selected to take part. The cost to participate is $300.

Attending ten 6-hour class sessions on the first and second Saturday from September through February

•Completing a community service project

•Working with an assigned mentor

Room for Growth

On the other side of the coin, in education and career, Latinas are outpacing Latinos. Pew Research studies demonstrate that, where there previously had not existed a percentage point gap in the number of Latinas and Latinos that were enrolling in college by the following October after high school graduation, there now exists a 13 percentage point difference. Among Latinos and Latinas, Latinas were enrolling at a 76% of high school graduates, compared to Latino men which only made up 62% of high school Latino graduates that had enrolled in college the following fall. In 2010, 3 out of every 5 2- and 4- year degrees awarded to Latinos were earned by females.

Currently, Latino leaders in Greater Des Moines are gathering in attempt to address the lack of social, emotional, academic, and career support available for young male Latinos. Where the young women are excelling across the US, men of every ethnicity are being progressing at lower rates. It is my desire to bridge not only the leadership, wage, and education gaps between Latinos and the rest of the United States, but to work for a future that ensures that all Latinos realize their full potential.

Applications for the class of 2017 are now available. They are due June 1st. For information on who is eligible, and for the application, please visit our website:

Visit for more information on how to apply, scholarships, volunteer opportunities, and more!


Facebook Comments